Think about the last really bad experience you had talking to a business. Maybe the business owner was brash, didn’t provide information that answered your questions, or maybe no one even answered at all.
As a business owner, this isn’t the experience you want to provide your customers (and potential customers), and by mastering effective call handling, you can convert more callers into customers and relieve a top customer pain point.
Your customers after a bad call handling experience.
Effective call handling is essentially an art. There are a lot of factors to take into consideration to give your callers the best experience possible but mastering these basics can make a big impact on your business—and your bottom line.
In this post we’ll answer the following questions:
- What is call handling?
- What is the importance of good call handling?
- What are the costs of bad call handling?
Plus, we’ll share eight call handling best practices to try instead!
What is call handling?
Call handling is how you (or your team) manage calls that come to your business or calls you make to customers and prospects.
Basically, if it has to deal with talking to a customer or prospect on the phone, it’s call handling.
Call handling is an often-overlooked skill that’s important for every person in your business to master. There will be times that most—if not all—people on your team will have to answer the phone or call a customer, and you want them to be armed with best practices that will ensure a great customer experience for everyone at the end of the line.
Why is effective call handling important?
Call handling falls into customer service and impacts customer experience, two very important factors for success.
Consider these stats:
- Nearly 70% of people will pay more from a business known to offer a great customer experience.
- Over 90% of people will make repeat purchases from businesses that provide excellent customer service.
- 65% of customers have switched to a competitor’s business after a bad customer experience.
- Nearly 80% of customers have abandoned a purchase due to a bad customer experience.
If your customer calls and has a bad experience, they will likely choose not to do business with you. However, if you and your team practice effective call handling, you can retain or gain a new customer.
8 call handling best practices
When it comes to call handling best practices, there are some basic skills to perfect for success as well as some guidelines to adapt for your business.
1. Establish call handling KPIs
One of the biggest complaints customers have when it comes to calling a business is when no one answers—especially during business hours. This is an easily avoidable snafu that you can overcome by establishing some call handling KPIs (key performance indicators).
Some call handling KPIs to define include:
No one wants to wait 10 rings for someone to answer their call. Establish a realistic answer time for your team so that all calls are answered in a timely manner. (Before three rings is ideal!)
As you can see in this non-scientific chart I made based on my personal experiences calling businesses, my annoyance level increases with each ring until it culminates in me hanging up–and a missed customer for you.
Follow up time
Missed calls happen—especially for busy businesses. Establish a strict follow-up timeframe for your team so you can get back to customers ASAP. The majority of customers will do business with whoever calls them back first, so try to make it snappy! Within 24 hours is a good rule of thumb.
There will likely be times when a caller will need to be transferred to someone within the business who can better help them. Establish clear call routing procedures, including who to transfer the call to for what inquiry, and communicate to the caller if the person you’re routing them to is unavailable so they know to leave a message.
If your business has multiple lines or receives multiple calls at once frequently, you will want to establish an ideal hold time for your customers. Once that time has passed, you’ll want your team member to take them off hold and provide an update—whether they’re waiting for more information, trying to connect them with another team member, or still searching inventory. Doing this can keep you from having calls dropped and missing out on a customer.
2. Have a formal call handling training
Once you’ve established your call handling KPIs, make sure to write them down and communicate them to your team. This is also a great opportunity for a formal call handling training where you can have mock customer calls that cover common questions or complaints you receive and look for areas for improvement for your team.
3. Create a phone script
One of the best ways you can improve call handling is to create a “script” for you and your team to follow when you answer the phone or make calls from your business. Your phone script can be super simple but creating one can make a big difference in delivering a good customer experience for anyone who calls.
Some examples are below, but a guideline is to say your name and your business name whenever you call or make a call.
For answering the phone:
- “Thanks for calling [business name], this is [employee name], how can I help you?”
- “[Business name], [employee name] speaking, what can I do for you?”
- “Hi, thanks for calling [business name].”
For calling a customer:
- “Hi, this is [employee name] with [business name] returning your call from [day].”
- “Hi, this is [employee name] from [business name] following up regarding your [question, complaint, etc.].”
- “Hi, [customer name], we wanted to follow up your call to [business name]. How can I help you?”
See, these are so simple! Once you’ve nailed down the greeting that works for your business, you can even write or type it out and place it by the phone as a reminder to employees.
4. Listen to your current calls
If your business records calls, listening to those calls and analyzing them can be hugely insightful in showing you where and how you and your team can improve call handling.
For example, Mitchell Medical Group’s team listened to some of their incoming calls using our HIPAA-compliant call recording feature to identify where they were losing potential patients. Based on the information they gathered, they internally addressed their call handling practices that may have kept someone from booking an appointment with them and saw a substantial increase in calls that converted into patients.
5. Always collect contact information
One area of missed opportunity when it comes to call handling is not collecting caller contact information. It’s important to collect the caller’s name, phone number, and even their email address so your team can follow the call up later, if needed, to provide additional information and try to close a sale. Plus, if the caller hangs up or the call drops, someone can call them back immediately.
I was recently looking for boarding facilities for my dogs, and only one of the five facilities I called about availability and pricing asked for my contact information. So they were the only ones that followed up with me to see if I still needed dog boarding a week later. Where do you think I boarded my dogs? That simple call handling best practice closed a sale for them!
6. Keep a log of common customer complaints and questions
Calls can give you a lot of valuable customer data that you can use to improve your business—and your call handling. Keep a log of any customer complaints and questions that come in via phone in a central place your team can access. This can be your CRM, a shared Google doc, or a notepad by the phone.
If you notice any common questions, you can look for ways to address those online so customers may not have to call. Maybe you notice an influx of customers calling about your hours of operation or asking if you provide a specific service. You could then make sure your local listings are updated and that your hours of operation and services are clearly outlined on your website.
If you see a trend with complaints, this is an area for improvement that you can focus on to make your business even more successful (and make your customers happy!).
7. Keep calm and be nice
When it comes to call handling, things can get a little tense if you’re dealing with an unhappy customer. It’s important to always remain calm, be nice, and de-escalate situations as needed.
Calmly handling customer complaints, probably.
Make sure your employees know who to route customer complaints to so you can avoid making an unhappy customer even angrier. You can also identify a plan for dealing with upset callers (it happens!). Try to get to the root of the issue, suggest a solution, and propose a time to follow up.
8. Always be training
Holding one training with your team is great, but it’s crucial to keep effective call handling top of mind. If you don’t want to (or feel you need to) establish a formal call handling check-in, you can do random spot checks where you call your business to make sure your call handling KPIs are being met, give tips to your employees if you notice a best practice not being followed, and model good call handling at all times.
Make effective call handling a business best practice
Getting people to call your business is way more than half the battle, and effective call handling can make converting callers into customers or securing a sale a breeze. By following these call handling best practices, you and your team will make providing a good customer experience and good customer service a top priority, which can help your business stand out.
What Is Customer Service Automation? (+7 Ways It Helps Your Business Thrive)
Lead Generation vs. Brand Awareness: What's the Best Bet for Your Business?
5 Reasons Your Leads Aren't Converting (+How to Fix Them Fast!)
How to Add Your Number to the 411 Business Directory (+Other Listings to Reach Customers)
24 Niche Market Examples (+How to Find & Market to Your Own Niche)